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5 of the Healthiest Dog Breeds Brag About Their Good Genes

Every dog is an individual, but we chat with a few canines to find out what makes them among the healthiest dog breeds around.

Lynn M. Hayner  |  Oct 23rd 2017


Similar to us humans, all dogs will likely experience some sort of health problem. My mixed-breed dog had sore paw problems. One of my German Shepherd Dogs had an enzyme deficiency. Some individual dogs, regardless of their breeds, simply have bad luck with health. Since some disorders are more prevalent in certain breeds, responsible breeders pay close attention to health concerns, and test breeding dogs to minimize the probabilities of those issues. Mixed breeds aren’t necessarily healthier either — research indicates they don’t have many advantages when it comes to genetic disorders. Of course, each dog’s health and longevity also depends on taking them for veterinary checkups, offering nutritious diets, controlling their weight and providing exercise opportunities. Let’s hear from five of the healthiest dog breeds about what makes them so generally hearty:

1. Airedale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier is among the healthiest dog breeds.

The Airedale Terrier is among the healthiest dog breeds. Photography courtesy Tanya Pictor, airedale.org.

Originating in England’s Valley of Aire, we hunted small game, killed otters and rats, and defended homes. We also delivered messages and located the wounded in the World Wars. While, of course, we’re not without a few health concerns, we’re typically in the lower percentages for occurrences. For example, only about 10% of us are dysplastic (showing abnormal development of the hip). In contrast, some other breeds our size have dysplasia in 70% of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals-screened dogs. Did you know that Teddy Roosevelt once boasted that we could do anything any other dog could, and then lick the other dog if needed?

2. American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel is one of the healthiest dogs.

The American Water Spaniel is one of the healthiest dogs. Photography courtesy Linda McGrath, Director of AWS club, americanwaterspanielclub.org.

Developed in Wisconsin from breeds such as the Irish and English Water Spaniels, we were bred to hunt, flush and retrieve game and Great Lakes waterfowl. While we’re Wisconsin’s state breed, we’re a rather uncommon type of dog. We love playing in water, and we thrive in both cool and warm climates. Weighing in at about 35 pounds, we’re happy, upbeat and energetic companions to our humans. Our breed has individual occurrences of health concerns such as diabetes and epilepsy, but as a group we’re long-lived and strong. Keep us fit with field training, retrieve sessions, long walks and the ever-popular swimming. You’re in charge of our schedule, so we count on you to keep us exercised!

3. Cairn Terrier

Looking for a healthy dog? A Cairn Terrier should do the trick!

Looking for a healthy dog? A Cairn Terrier should do the trick! Photography courtesy Ernie Slone, cairnterrier.org.

Hardy as heck, my work history explains my tenacity. Scottish farmers developed my forefathers to eradicate pests on farmsteads. Our name comes from our success routing vermin from cairns (rock piles). Although small, we readily battled vermin who put up a fight. These days, we don’t evidence many health problems. While our list of medical problems isn’t long, we’re indeed inclined to chase squirrels and rabbits, leading to possible accidents in your human world. May I suggest leashes and fences? Perhaps our scrappiness contributes to our long life spans. In other words, maybe we’re too much of a go-getter to get our angel halo early!

4. Whippet

A Whippet's good health should keep the vet bills down.

A Whippet’s good health should keep the vet bills down. Photography permission granted by Mary Huff with tails in design via americanwhippetclub.net.

I’ll tell you about me in record time (yes, I’m speedy!). We were developed from the Greyhound and other breeds as racehorses for the common man. We hunted for our family’s table, and then raced for their entertainment. While no breed is without some chance of malady, we’re a lean and athletic breed, typically living 12 to 15 years. We need a good run every day, but we’re fairly low maintenance. Just be sure to keep us warm with sweaters and comfy blankets: we don’t have much body fat and we catch a chill easily.

5. Australian Cattle Dog 

Australian Cattle Dogs.

Australian Cattle Dogs are usually pretty solid in the health department. Photography courtesy Sherry D. Clark, DVM, The Australian Cattle Dog Club of America, Inc.

We’re able-bodied, rugged and characteristically fit as fiddles. Australians developed us as hard-working dogs to move stubborn cattle in the harshest of conditions. Although we do have incidences of deafness, eye issues or dysplasia within our breed, in general we’re tough and robust; our median lifespan exceeds that of most dog breeds our size. We also pack a lot of life into the years we do have here! We’re energetic, highly intelligent and excel in any activity we choose. I think livestock herding is the best choice, but I’ll humor you with other sports, too. 

Interested in seeing health stats for your dog? Check out the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ disease statistics by breed >>

Tell us: What are the healthiest dog breeds in your opinion? Do you have a dog that’s a poster child of good health?

Thumbnail: Photography by Best dog photo / Shutterstock. 

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